Real-time PR monitoring speeds crisis response

Do you miss reports of your company on TV? Monitoring tools allow you to track coverage—and respond—especially when facing negative coverage.

This story on real-time monitoring is in partnership with Critical Media.

A retailer’s PR department learns from its TV and radio monitoring platform of an ugly trend in one market: The media keeps characterizing its stores as beset by crime.

Is it time to pump out a press release, send cupcakes to the newsroom, hand out happy face balloons to kids at the door?

Actually, no. PR takes the statistics to the local manager, so the retailer can make changes, says Dave Armon, president of the monitoring platform Critical Mention.

Take your own test drive of Critical Mention here.

“Maybe we look at more security,” Armon says. “Maybe we look at better lighting in the parking lots. Maybe we look some further partnerships with law enforcement. And then suddenly the reports of problems decline. You’ve helped the business as a PR person pointing it out, and you start to see more positive coverage.”

His example, drawn from a client’s experience, shows why real-time media monitoring and analytics are thriving, despite the bankruptcy of major player VMS in 2011.

TV and radio intelligence—which includes both data and access to clips from broadcasts—isn’t just about finding ways to wallpaper over stains on your public image. It can lead to substantial change.

Otto Hoering, media measurement manager at Ketchum, says real-time monitoring of TV and radio is especially useful in crises. (These can include product recalls, major layoffs, and SEC investigations.)

For example, “if there’s any kind of lawsuit where a client’s being sued for something, it’s really important to have instant feedback on what’s being said in the media about that,” says Hoering, who formerly worked at VMS.

Gil Rudawsky of GroundFloor Media, which specializes in crisis communications, says time is of the essence.

“With our clients, particularly ones who are facing a crisis, we really need to know the exact minute a report hits the media so we can begin sending out response messages and start round-the-clock monitoring of social media,” Rudawsky says.

Real-time monitoring helps General Motors to keep tabs on how crises—or new product rollouts—are playing out nationwide, says Mike Meyerand, manager of broadcast communications.

“Without these services, I would have no idea what they’re saying about us in San Francisco,” he says.

GM was able track how the media was covering the Chevrolet Volt, electric cars, whether the vehicles are worth the cost, and how well they work.

“We tried to stay on top of them in terms of literally educating the media about the technology and how the car works and what to expect,” Meyerand says, “because some people really didn’t understand.”

In such cases, GM called some reporters and said: “Just so you know, you don’t have it quite right. It’s really like this.”

Janet Harris, president of Upstream Analysis, which uses Critical Mention, says real-time broadcast monitoring is useful to both companies and issues groups that want to know how they’re coming across and what counterarguments their critics are offering.

“If you’re looking at local TV coverage, it tends to be more negative than general news,” she says. “There’s the old saw in local news, ‘If it bleeds, it leads.’ … If you’ve got a positive message to get out, it’s much more challenging in broadcast to counter some of the negative that’s out there.”

For example, when a new big-box store opens, it might draw cameras for reports on traffic or complaints about its wages, she says. The store is less likely to be covered for “the good work you’re doing in the community, or the fact that you’re bringing lots of jobs to an area that needs it, or the that you’re bringing or affordable groceries to a ‘food desert,'” Harris says.

Knowing the coverage on TV and radio allows the chain to prepare arguments to take to the planning board before a store is sited or otherwise adjust its strategy.

Ashley Pettit, project lead on Southwest Airlines’ social business and listening team, says, “Our monitoring tools are the first places we turn in a crisis.”

The airline looks at a number of areas. These include the extent of coverage, overall trending, and who’s being interviewed and quoted. The team notifies PR about matters that are becoming an issue, allowing them to fact-check and respond to reports.

Benefits abound

A growing number of communications professionals use data-mining, or the discovery of patterns in large data sets through the use of computers. And they’re able track very little of the online coverage with the help of tools like Google Alerts, according to Critical Mention’s Armon.

“With TV and radio, it’s a very, very hard beast to tame,” he says. “There really is no public site open and free where you can go and see everything that’s done on TV in every market in real time.”

Monitoring tools solve this problem through searching closed captions. New advances in voice-to-text technology allow real-time monitoring of radio as well.

Give Critical Mention a try here.

One benefit is this allows organizations to track the third-party experts that a station or network is relying on, Armon says. That way they can make sure press releases and statements get to the right talking head.

“You’re catering to them knowing they’re being trusted to comment on this particular story,” he says.

Tools for monitoring TV and radio broadcasts offer another bonus.

“As a PR person, the worst thing is for the CEO to ring you up or stop by your office and say, ‘Did you see that piece on Channel 4 about us last night?'” Armon says. “If you haven’t seen it, you look like an idiot.”

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